Breaking Records, Overcoming Pressure & Spicy Mala Hot Pot: Discus Champion Queenie Ting Kung Ni

Queenie Ting Kung Ni is one of Malaysia's biggest up-and-coming hopes in athletics, smashing National Records in the discus throw in the 2019 SEA Games. As she sets her sights on the 2023 Asian Games and the 2024 Olympics, she tells us all about what makes or breaks an elite discus thrower.
Queenie Ting Kung Ni. All photos: Queenie Ting Kung Ni,
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Breaking Records, Overcoming Pressure & Spicy Mala Hot Pot: Discus Champion Queenie Ting Kung Ni

Hi Queenie! Thanks for chatting to &ASIAN today! For people who might not know you, who is Queenie Ting Kung Ni?

Hello! Thank you for spending your time with me here today! I really love the questions that you prepared for me ^_^.

I am Queenie from Sarikei Sarawak currently residing in KL. I’m turning 25 this November.

What is your origin story as an athlete? Were you always a sporty child, and how did you discover discus throwing?

Absolutely no way! I was introduced to athletics by my teacher when I was 14. I used to be overweight. Standing at 174cm and at 116kg, I used to be called a giant by my school friends.

Due to my physical appearance, maybe that’s why my teacher thought I would be a good thrower for the school team. And one day my teacher took me to Stadium nearby my house and introduced me to my very coach.

Apparently, I started my athletics career as a shot putter before my coach convinced me to switch to the discus throw and I fell in love immediately.

Was there a defining moment when you realized you loved throwing and that this was going to be your life?

Were there any obstacles you had to overcome to get this dream started?

What a good question! (Thank you for bringing me back to this precious moment).

The story has to start when I was finished with high school and got my SPM results. I tried to figure out what my next step in life would be and how to make it happen. So, a girl who wanted to fulfil her childhood dream of becoming a teacher tried to fill out an application on the IPG (Institut Pendidikan Guru) website.

"Try again later."

This just popped up in front of me, and I couldn't log in when I tried to open that page again.

So, I've moved on to Plan B, which is to apply to Pra-University at SSBJ (Sekolah Sukan Bukit Jalil, an offer specifically for athletes to continue their studies after SPM). This time, luckily, nothing unexpected happened until I was done filling them up. Thankfully, after a few months, I received the news that I had been selected to continue my studies in SSBJ and continue my discus journey.

In the beginning, I was a bit reluctant to move to KL because I barely spoke English or Malay. But I’m so lucky because my coach is white and my teammates are Malay so they taught me English and Bahasa Melayu. After a few months in Kuala Lumpur, I’m kind of getting used to my life here and I enjoyed it.

After two years of studying and training as a student-athlete, my performance wasn’t that good. It didn’t qualify me for the National Team.

I’m so worried. Too many things came to my mind. How can I continue my throwing career if I don't get selected?

I had an enormous amount of pressure and I always did poorly in my competitions. There were times I tried to be a normal student and was lazy for a few days, I didn’t turn up for training but I felt hopeless.

One fine day I shared my fear with one of my senior athletes. I told her I wanted to give up throwing and she advised me to keep going. She told me just to be more patient and that what I need is time. So I changed my mind and started to train again.

I just told myself, "Hey Queenie! You just need to give it another shot." My teammates cheered me up and I kept grinding. Finally, I got selected for SEA Games 2019 and promoted to the Podium Program!

And the best part was that I managed to do a PB (Personal Best) multiple times and I broke the NR (National Record)!

Tell us a bit about your family! In chasing your dreams, how does your family fit in, especially when you were training under quarantine? Was sports a part of your family life before your career?

I come from a typical small Chinese family. I have one sister, one brother, and little twin sisters. I’m the only athlete in our family. My parents are leaning toward academics so, in the beginning, I didn’t really get full support from my family. Slowly they understood my passion for the discus throw and they are proud of my achievements.  

During COVID, I was only able to train at home. My family understands my situation, so they are always willing to make space and try to be as quiet as possible when I need to have an online video session with my coach. Other than that, my parents are always worried that I don't have enough food, so they love to cook a large table of food for me to eat.

You are the current national record holder for Discus Throw in Malaysia, as well as being the first woman from Malaysia to throw over 50m (50.67m). Your record breaking throw was topped only by your next performance at SEA 2022 at 52.36m!

I’m curious as someone who will probably never break a national record–what do you think at the moment you’ve broken these personal records and goals that you set for yourself? What does it feel like?

My first reaction was to think I should shout! Like the one so loud that I could be heard all over the stadium (but I'm too shy to do that! Hahaha). Breaking new personal records and goals feels like I've successfully stepped-over another higher hurdle.

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t improve my performance for quite some time in competitions and felt like giving up but I decided to reset my mind and set new goals. I’m ready to face new challenges and overcome any obstacles in the future. And I just need to bear in mind, sometimes we win, sometimes we learn…

Losing is no more in my dictionary.  

What are your next professional goals for throwing?

What are the long-term goals you would like to achieve with your own career and with the Malaysian team?

My next goal is to throw over 55m by end of this year. This is very crucial because in order to secure my ticket for the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China I need to throw around 58m by June 2023. And I have a BIG dream too, which is to become a finalist in the Olympic Paris 2024.

In order to meet your goals, your training program and coaches are obviously super important. Can you tell us about the coaches you have and how you found each other?

What different types of training are needed for developing good discus throw technique?

My current coach is Mohamad Ali Hamid, a coach with 20 years of coaching experience. When I first met him, it was because I decided to step outside of my comfort zone (at the time, I preferred to be in an environment free of stress and competition). I tried to ask for his help and asked to join his team to continue my discus dream.

Under his guidance, I was really amazed by the knowledge he had and the experience he shared! He gave me a better understanding of the principles of training, biomechanics, the importance of post-training recovery, and a lot more.

Apart from throwing the discus, but we also lift weights in the gym, we do functional training, hurdles mobility, sprints, jumps, and other exercises. To improve our discus throw performance, we need these other exercises to strengthen our strength, speed, and explosive power.

The most important one, which is, of course, the most often overlooked by many people, is the recovery after training! We can have a perfect, great, or amazing training plan, but we have to be in the best shape possible to carry out the plan.

"Working out is king. Nutrition is queen. When you put them all together, you have a kingdom." (Jack Lalanne). 

Another very important person behind my athletics career is my nutritionist. She's my coach's wife (Durrah Ramli).

There was a time when I went on a diet but it didn’t work out. So, a new problem arises, I didn’t have a proper diet plan resulted in insufficient energy to carry out my training. Physically I'm getting weaker over the weeks and eventually it worsens my performance in the competitions. Later, my coach realized my problem and introduced me to his wife, who is also my current nutritionist. She taught me a lot about nutrition and also made me understand the importance of food choices, calorie intake control, and the body.

What is your favourite training exercise? When training gets tough, what do you think about that helps you keep going?

Aside from the discus throw, my favourite training exercise is definitely lifting weights in the gym! I love lifting heavier weights in the snatch, clean, squat, and benchpress! Every time I improved my lifting, it is so satisfying as throwing a personal best in discus throw! 

When training gets tough, I always share my feelings and thoughts with my coach or psychologist. They will analyze my problem from a professional point of view and give me advice. I also have my own little way of dealing with problems. I write down all of my worries on a piece of paper or in my journal and tell myself that when I'm done, these problems are over and there won't be any more in the future.

Outside of training, what are your favourite hobbies or activities?

I love to read, especially the kind of motivational books. Every time I read the experience shared by the author of the story, I gain a new understanding, new ideas, and a new perspective on things. Sometimes things that are bothering me seem to be no longer a problem!

An important last question: if you didn’t have to think about nutrition plans or training right now: what is your all-time favourite food and drink to enjoy and why?

Hmm... If I have this opportunity, I will unconditionally choose hot pot! Especially the spicy mala hot pot with unlimited lamb! Next up is Starbucks' Green Tea Frapuccino with cream! I would choose these because their calories are actually the scariest when I need to diet!

Queen Ting Kung Ni is on Instagram.
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